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‘Synthetic blood’: Entangling politics and biology

Kent, Julie; Meacham, Darian

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Julie Kent
Professor in Sociology of Health Techngy

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Darian Meacham
Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy


It is increasingly suggested that shortages in the supply chain for human blood could be met by the development of techniques to manufacture human blood ex vivo. These techniques fall broadly under the umbrella of Synthetic Biology. We examine the biopolitical context surrounding the ex vivo culture of Red Blood Cells through the linked concepts of alienation, immunity, biovalue and bio-securitisation. We engage with diverse meanings of synthetic blood and questions about how the discourses of biosecurity and privatisation of risk are linked to claims that the technology will address unmet needs and promote social justice. Through our discussion we contrast communitarian ideas that culturing red blood cells ‘extends the gift’ of adult blood donation with understandings of the immunitary logics that underpin the cord blood economy.


Kent, J., & Meacham, D. (2019). ‘Synthetic blood’: Entangling politics and biology. Body and Society, 25(2), 28-55.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 14, 2019
Online Publication Date Jan 14, 2019
Publication Date Jun 1, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 10, 2019
Journal Body and Society
Print ISSN 1357-034X
Electronic ISSN 1460-3632
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 28-55
Keywords alienation, biosecuritization, bio-value, blood economies, cultured red blood cells, gift relations, immune politics, stem cells, synthetic biology
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